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The “Bully” Question — A Trap!

by Izzy Kalman (March 2003)

The US is now at war with Iraq. Let us hope that whatever happens, it turns out for the best for both countries and the world as a whole.

Many of us are struggling with the question of whether or not the US is doing the right thing. Perhaps the most difficult question is whether the US is being a bully, something that has caused many Americans to feel ashamed of their country. My first concern in this month’s newsletter is to address this vexing issue, and to get my readers to realize that, whatever you may base your opinions on, the “bully” question is an irrelevant one.This past year, I have been called “a bully” on several occasions. Once was by the seller of a camera I purchased through eBay. This seller was less than honest, and when I pressed her to provide the merchandise in an timely and fair manner, she called me “a bully.” The other times I was called a bully were by readers who were outraged that I would dare suggest that victims should take responsibility for their lot in life. Though I threatened no one, and my only concern was to teach people to stop suffering as victims, these individuals called me a bully.

When called a bully, I found myself trapped, with no good way to respond. If I defend myself against charges of being a bully, I automatically lose because being in the defensive puts me in the weaker position. If I don’t defend myself, then I am de facto admitting that I am, indeed, a bully. So I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

The US is in the same trap. It is being called a bully by people all over the world, and the US has no effective way to respond.

If it argues that it’s not a bully, it puts itself in the losing, defensive position. If it doesn’t defend itself, it seems to be admitting that it is a bully.

“Might Makes Wrong”

Since the US is stronger than Iraq, the US is considered the bully and therefore automatically the bad guy. How has it happened that stronger side in a conflict deserves the title of the bad guy?

When we lived in the jungle, “Might made right.” When we left nature and became civilized, we replaced the laws of the jungle with the laws of justice. Now, “Justice makes right.”

Justice is supposed to be blind. A court’s duty is to determine right and wrong regardless of which side is richer or more powerful. For those of you who like Biblical sources, the Bible commands judges not to give preference to the rich because of their power or to the poor out of pity. (Leviticus 19:15: “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”)

But in recent years a new element has entered the scene to contaminate justice. That is the idea of the “bully.” A bully is being defined today in scientific-sounding terms as the stronger side in a conflict were there’s an “uneven power differential.” This is based on the idea that it is not fair to use one’s greater power against others. That makes one a bully, and bullies, of course, are evil.

In all of Nature, the drive for power over others is not only beneficial to living creatures, it is a biological necessity. Any creature that doesn’t seek power is quickly devoured by other creatures that do. Even in human society, having power was not-too-long-ago considered a cause for pride. In our upside-down world, power has come to represent evil, and weakness a virtue. In other words, in our modern brilliance, we have replaced “Might makes right,” with “Might makes wrong.” Thus it is now possible for a weaker entity to take on a stronger one, and then win the world’s moral support on the grounds of being the victim of a bully.

The idea that possessing greater power makes one the evil bully in a conflict is nonsense. Declaring the weaker side as automatically right is no less illogical and immoral as declaring the stronger side to be automatically right. If having greater power is automatically wrong, then anytime a policeman with a gun confronts a criminal armed only with a knife, the criminal would be in the right!

Bad Bully/Good Bully

People ask who made the US, that big bully, the policeman of the world. The question of whether the US is a good policeman or bad policeman seems irrelevant.

Every living system has a dominating body. Otherwise you have chaos and the system self-destructs. On a cellular level, the nucleus mandates the behavior of the rest of the cell’s molecules. In our bodies, the nervous system controls the activity of the body’s other cells. Every organization has a hierarchy in which those at the top have greater power and control the levels below. And this includes governments. Every level of government has policing functions by which certain individuals are given weapons to use against those who would break the law. There is nothing inherently evil about this. Without a successful policing function, criminals take over and we return to the lawlessness of the jungle. Our concern should not be whether it is good to have police; the concern should be whether the police are good or bad.

If you studied history and read current events, you would know that countries also fight for dominance over others. This is done in a number of ways: economic power; military force; culture and the media; religion; banding together in forums like the United Nations to attack other, more powerful nations. And there is always going to be some country that is the most powerful. This is not evil; it is just the nature of life. Being dominated by another country doesn’t always turn out to be bad. Many populations have benefited greatly when powerful empires took them over and brought in better ways of doing things. Our concern should not be whether it is bad for one country to dominate another. Our concern should be whether the domination is a good one or a bad one.

Bullies often use their power to establish some kind of order (with themselves at the top, of course), while victims often use their power for vengeful destruction. Yes, there are good bullies in the world and evil victims. In many aspects of our lives, we are part of a system in which those in positions of higher power dictate our actions. As long as we have to have someone controlling us, we’re better off with a good bully than a bad bully.

So please, when judging the US, don’t use the “bully” issue as a reason for condemning it. Condemning the US as a bully is nothing more than a smokescreen obscuring reality. You may come to the conclusion that the US is wrong in it’s war with Iraq, but you should  base your decision on real issues, not the “bully” one.

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